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Manuscripts Don’t Burn

Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof

Iran, 2013

Cornerhouse, 14 September 2014

Manuscripts Don't Burn

Despite a low key, naturalistic directorial style this is in places a terrifying film.

For much of the time it follows two state agents as they seek out copies of a manuscript which their boss wants to destroy.  Banal, everyday actions occur within scenes where you are virtually watching a man die.  The actors portray men who have killed before and will do so again.  For them, it’s not theatre – a beheading to be placed on social media – but just a job.  It is surprising, in fact, that the film has just a 15 certificate.

With regard to the story behind the making of the film, there’s no doubt that this is a valuable document of the kind of terror, oppression and censorship happening now in Iran.  What I’d stress, however, is that it’s also a supremely crafted film: the director has a sure touch and the actors – both cast and crew are unnamed, in order to grant them a measure of protection – give splendid performances.  A comparison with The Lives of Others is inevitable – it is that good.